Budapest celebrations end in tragedy - updated
The Constitution Day fireworks in Budapest, the closing event of the holiday ceremonies, was washed away by a violent storm, which resulted in four deaths and 250 injured people were taken to hospital.
The panicking crowd had to find shelter from tiles blown off building roofs, from trees falling down, and from glass splinters of broken windows, and one man got struck by lightning. Many children were separated from their parents in the huge crowd, and policemen struggle to locate and unite families. The roof of the recently renovated Sándor Palace in the Castle District was damaged, and on the other side of town, the roof of the new Népliget bus station was partially blown off. Several boats collided on the Danube, and several people fell into the water.
Two people are still missing after boats on the Danube collided during the storm and five people fell in the water, Tibor Dobson, a spokesman for the disaster authority, said. More than 200 firefighters were called to duty to help handle damage from the storm last night, he said. “People were running and screaming,” said Andis Hanson, 32, of Denmark, a tourist visiting Budapest with his wife and son. The couple ran for their hotel room when the storm hit. Hungarian Frank Shelly, 78, who walked near the Danube today surveying storm damage, said Hungary's weather service should have alerted spectators of the storm before the fireworks. “They knew that catastrophe was coming. They knew what the weather was like a day in advance and could've told people ahead of time,” he said.
The storm, with winds of 120 kilometers an hour (75 miles), touched down minutes after as many as 1.5 million people gathered along the Danube River to watch the fireworks show around 9 p.m. Demszky called for an investigation into why the fireworks weren't canceled since he said Hungary's weather service knew of the storm beforehand. “Had organizers called off the fireworks based on the forecast published at around 8 p.m. by the National Meteorological Service, then the fatal accidents wouldn't have happened,” Demszky was quoted as saying by Origo, a news Web site, following an emergency meeting at city hall last night. The country's ambulance service took more than 100 people to hospitals, said Pál Győrfi, the spokesman for Hungary's ambulance service, adding the actual number may be higher. “Most injures were caused by falling trees, branches, broken windows and debris,” Győrfi said. (Info radio, Bloomberg, MTI)
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